FINDING A WIDER AUDIENCE
Dear Author Enabler,
I have written a book for children ages 3 to 7 years old. I started working on them one day when I was keeping some kids occupied in the car. My friend’s son and my daughter loved my stories; they laughed and laughed. The stories are about animals having wacky adventures, with a message behind each one. Over the last ten years I have written 13 of them. My daughter is 17 years old now, and she still loves to read them. I would like to see if it’s worth trying to publish them, and if so, which publisher it would be best to send them to.
First of all, I think it’s wonderful that you’ve written these stories and shared them with the children in your life. That, really, is the greatest success, in my opinion. Most writers never get such direct appreciation for their work.
The path to becoming a published author from where you are now is a different matter. The traditional way would be to write query letters to literary agents who specialize in children’s books, which you can find online. If an agent expresses interest, he or she would want to see more of your work and learn more about you. If an agent decides to represent you, there would be some more steps involved in getting your work ready to be shopped around to a publisher. Generally, agents are compensated for their time by receiving 15% of whatever you make from your work.
If you choose to go this route, you will need to be patient and confident. Agents may not respond to your query letter (which should be carefully composed), and you may receive a lot of form letters that, in short, amount to a rejection. Writers have to be brave in the face of rejection.
Another possible route for you would be self-publishing, which would allow you to get your book in print, sell it yourself and maybe even make a little money (though no one can guarantee this). But I wouldn’t want you to spend a lot of money you don’t have on this process, which can be quite expensive and confusing, without learning more. I would recommend reading a book about self-publishing, such as The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing by Tom and Marilyn Ross.
PUBLISHING OPTIONS EXPLAINED
Dear Author Enabler,
I write a lot of stories about things around the area where I live, many made up to entertain my kids. I have one—a zombie horror story originally written to be made into a low-budget film—that I have copyrighted, but most publishers are not accepting unsolicited manuscripts. Shortly after I got the copyright, I received a letter from Dorrance Publishing about the book, but I do not know anything about subsidy publishing. I also received an e-mail from a company named Author House about self-publishing. Is either of those options a good choice? Any advice you could give me would be appreciated.
I’m sensing a theme here: people writing for their kids, which is great—though your writing and Bonnie’s are quite different! It sounds to me like some companies in the self-publishing industry are tracking Library of Congress copyright submissions and then contacting the authors with what amounts to a sales pitch. I'd recommend exploring other approaches and options before going this expensive and not necessarily fulfilling route.
Perhaps you can join (or even start) a writing group or class or attend a writer's conference. I think these group settings can be a great resource for aspiring writers. After you've had some experience in a group, your librarian or local bookseller can help you find a book that will lead you through the process of writing a book proposal and/or finding an agent or publisher. There are many excellent ones out there, and that's a good place to start. One suggestion is my own Write That Book Already: The Tough Love You Need to Get Published Now, which I co-authored with my late wife Kathi Kamen Goldmark. If you do consider self-publishing, take note of the answer I gave to Bonnie above. And good luck!
Send your questions about writing and publishing to firstname.lastname@example.org.